As we enter the season of Lent I’m learning all I can about our Lenten Chrismons. I’m hoping to translate these lovingly handmade church decorations into a sermon series for our midweek Lenten services. While they’re often overlooked decorations that adorn our sanctuary during Lent, they do have a message to tell. I thought I’d share just one aspect of them as a “teaser” for this upcoming series.
One common theme of the Chrismons is the use of the color purple. Which leads me to ask:
WHY IS PURPLE THE COLOR FOR LENT?
Color is an unspoken language that creates an immediate, emotional connection with the meaning of an event or message. Think of red, white, and blue for Patriotism. Or how the city of Chicago dyes the river green for their St. Patrick’s Day parade. Colors play an important part in the liturgical church year for just this reason. There are many celebrations and observances in which color is used to impart the message of the church season or occasion. The season of Lent uses the color purple to convey Lent’s rich and varied meanings.
Purple is a color awash in symbolism. Its deep, almost night-like, color occurs naturally on our skin when we bruise. This association of purple with bruising when used in churches becomes a visual reminder of the prophecies regarding Christ found in Isaiah 53:5:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.”
Purple reminds us of Christ’s sacrifices on our behalf. Purple encourages us to strive to be more Christ-like and practice Christian self-sacrifice and self-discipline with fasting, repentance, studying of God’s Word, and service to others during this season.
Purple is also a color of royalty, particularly the Roman emperors at the time of Christ. As an act of derision toward Our Lord, Pilate placed a purple robe on Jesus, whom he called “King of the Jews”. Jesus, by dying on the cross and three days later rising to life to conquer death, turned this act of scorn on its end. Jesus conquered what no emperor or empire ever could, and thus, becomes our Living Lord and Risen Reigning King.
Therefore, purple with its easy association with seemingly disparate themes of bruising sacrifice and reigning royalty becomes the color choice of Lent. The season of Lent calls us to contemplate Christ’s cross (its bruising sacrifice) as well as anticipate Christ’s victory (his reigning royalty).
Blessings upon your Lenten Journey,